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Natick voters OK new school and center

By Megan McKee
Globe Correspondent / March 31, 2010

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NATICK — Natick voters yesterday overwhelmingly approved a new $89 million high school and a $10 million community-senior center, braving heavy rain to participate in an election that also featured hotly contested races for the Board of Selectmen and School Committee.

“We’re elated,’’ said Steve Levinsky, chairman of the community-senior center’s fund-raising campaign. “It’s been 15 years of very hard work by everybody across the community to get here.’’

The votes for the building projects capped a two-month run-up with highly organized campaigning to win “yes’’ votes that paid off. According to unofficial results from the town clerk’s office, the high school was approved 7,110 to 1,349, and the community-senior center won by a margin of 5,392 to 2,869. Of Natick’s more than 22,000 voters, 8,568 cast ballots.

Voters also chose School Committee incumbents Anne Zernicke, Anne Blanchard, and Dave Murphy over newcomers Dylan Hayre and Mark Schultz. And in the race for two seats on the Board of Selectmen, Charles Hughes and Paul Joseph beat out Chris Carr.

Yesterday’s results showed residents’ willingness to replace two dilapidated buildings: the circa-1954 Natick High School and the circa-1956 elementary school that houses the senior center. Both buildings are plagued by leaking roofs, inefficient heating systems, and facilities that can’t handle the needs of their constituents, officials said.

Supporters rallied around a new high school, organizing teams of canvassers. They regularly updated a Twitter feed and Facebook page, and spent every Saturday holding signs on the town common. All the candidates running for the Board of Selectmen and School Committee supported the project.

Construction of the high school will add $46 million to the property tax levy, increasing the bill for median-priced homes by up to $248 annually while the 20-year construction bond is paid off. The remaining $43 million will come from the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Megan McKee can be reached at megan.mckee@gmail.com.

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